While Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona has yet to have a Senate confirmation hearing to become President Biden’s Secretary of Education, we can still look ahead. Look ahead to policy changes at the U.S. Department of Education. Look ahead to changes for America’s students – students from kindergarten to college. Look ahead to a U.S. Department of Education that is again focused on the interests and well-being of America’s public education system.
Let’s consider some of the changes we could see in education policy with President Biden and Education Secretary Cardona.
- A real plan to reopen schools, not just a pronouncement that “schools must reopen.” Such a plan would be grounded in science, vaccination programs, masks and other protections. It would also seek and consider input from states, school district leadership, teachers, and families.
- A clear and consistent message that immigrants are valued and that DACA students and their families, are safe.
- Recommit to Obama-era guidance on school discipline, suspensions and expulsions. Continued racial disparities in school discipline are unacceptable. Students of color are still disproportionately suspended and expelled for minor and subjective offenses, removing from learning opportunities and labeling them as problems.
- Return to policies protecting college students from predatory loan practices, the victims of whom are too often veterans, first-generation college students, and students of color.
- Reinvest in higher education and alleviate excessive student loan debt. While thought needs to go into the implementation of such a program, just think about the growth our economy could experience if, instead of making exorbitant student loan payments, people could put a down payment on a house, or buy a new car?
- Work to find ways to keep our students and staff safe. School police with guns and more active shooter drills are not the way forward. This should include working to build warm and welcoming school climates, addressing bullying and taking mental health seriously.
- Return to real protections for students with disabilities. Schools that receive public funding, including public charters, must like all other public schools, serve all students. Not providing services for students with disabilities, must end.
- Return to policies where campus sexual assault is taken and dealt with seriously.
- Recommit to a public education system that teaches and values more than just algebra and reading comprehension. Education is so much more than job training. If the January 6th insurrection at the Capital and the 2017 Charlottesville mob taught us anything, it should be the necessity and value of a liberal education. An education that teaches critical thinking, empathy, tolerance and the value of community.
This list is far from complete. More than anything, we need a Department of Education that values public education. There’s a lot of work to be done.